Make Believe and Fantasy Play
I recently had the pleasure of babysitting a smart, creative and intelligent nine year old. He was witty, determined; he had plans to take guitar and singing lessons just to play a song that he wrote--it was remarkable. For a few weeks, I picked him up from school, helped him with his homework, and watched him until his parents got home from work. Every day was the same: drive home, turn on telly, watch telly, do homework while watching telly, eat while watching the telly, sometimes play computer games while watching telly, then go straight to basketball practice. After practice I assumed he did not have too much free-time before bed-time. This great kid--fully equipped with hopes and dreams--sat in front of the telly all day, went from one structured activity to the next, and only got the chance to express himself during the car-ride home, which is how I got to know him. I supposed this was his regular routine, but I could not get over the fact that he wasted all this time watching cartoons--cartoons he could have better written himself. Children need to express themselves and use their imaginations, not watch someone else's imagination on screen.
Encouraging Creative Play
These days children do not engage in enough open-ended play, which is really a pity. Child development depends on things like make believe and fantasy because these types of play allow children to conceive ideas, problem solve, role play, and form opinions of right and wrong. Since play learning is crucial to development, it is best to encourage it as much as possible.
Ideas to encourage make-believe:
- Buy simple toys: Simple toys leave room for imagination and are the best for stimulating a child's creativity.
- Avoid toys that impose a lot of rules: Toys with too many rules do not allow a child to make his own choices and develop her own situations, therefore it is best to limit access to them.
- Make a daily time limit for the telly and the computer--it doesn't have to be overly strict, but at least make equal time for both media play and creative play.
- Play with the children, but allow them to make the rules--this is their moment to initiate action and express themselves.
- Limit structured activities.
Things that Help a Child Make-Believe
Dress Up Clothes
Guides to Creative Toys and Games